What to Look For Before Buying a Property


Real estate can be one of the most interesting segments of the economy in the United States. Millions of people own homes across the country, helping to prop up markets in every state. Millions of others pay rent to occupy units owned by a landlord or real estate group. Businesses construct/buy buildings to conduct operations out of, or they lease space on a monthly basis. 

All this is evidence that the real estate sector affects everyone in some way. The process of buying property can be quite complex, and people at various stages of life have many reasons for purchasing properties. 

The problem with buying real estate is that it can be very expensive. Often, it is one of the biggest expenses you will ever encounter, whether you are buying a home to live in, purchasing a rental property, or obtaining commercial buildings to lease to tenants. To ensure you get the best deal possible, here are some things to look for before you buy a property.

Trends in the Local Market

No matter what type of property you are buying, its price is going to be affected by the local market. Whether you are purchasing a vacation rental property in Florida or a small cottage in rural Idaho, other properties can give you insight into what yours should be worth. The simplest way to look up other property values is with Zillow or Realtor.com. You can also ask your real estate agent to provide you with this information. For commercial property investors, you should look at all the available listings and compare the amenities. See what recent transactions are occurring to understand whether the market is hot or cold. If you notice the property you want, whether residential or commercial, is listed at a higher price than other comparable properties, the seller may be overestimating its value.

Total Expenses

The cost of the property is just one aspect of its actual expenses. For a home, there are going to be maintenance costs that come up later, as well as utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes. Rental property investments may require some marketing costs to attract tenants, and vacancy rates can affect the rental income. Understanding the total cost of ownership for a property is crucial if you want to stay within your budget. For investment properties, make sure you collect as many financial records, tax returns, and profit-loss statements as possible to get a clear understanding of the property’s potential. Ask for recent utility bills for a home that you want to buy so you can calculate what it may cost each year. Knowing the breakdown of costs will help you figure out what percentage of your income will go toward the mortgage and the extra expenses associated with the property.

Financing Options

Buying property of any kind usually involves a financing strategy. Most people do not have the capital upfront to cover the total cost of a listing. For the most part, you will need to take out some type of loan to complete the transaction. Conventional home loans, VA loans, FHA loans, and USDA loans are tools for those seeking new homes. Rental property investors can use a Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) calculator to compare a property’s expenses and rental income when applying for a DSCR loan. Commercial buyers may seek out loans from the Small Business Administration if they are seeking a spot for their company to work from. Research what financing options are available to you for your real estate objectives so affordability is improved. 

Maintenance/Development Needs

In general, no property is perfect for the needs of the buyer. It could have some repairs that must be made soon, ongoing maintenance to keep it functional, or necessary upgrades to make it ready for tenants. You should be fully aware of these needs before you sign a contract to purchase the property. A professional inspection is the most important tool for analyzing a property’s needs. This inspection will reveal any problem areas that currently exist or could come up in the near future. It will also be a useful document to consult when planning upgrades to the building. Include this aspect of property ownership in your budget and your plans for the property so you have a realistic vision of the total cost of the property.

Real Estate Purchases Should Never Be Impulsive

Although the reality of the real estate market often means that decisions need to be made quickly, there is a difference between an impulsive decision and a quick one. Impulsive purchases do not involve much research, so the risk of a poor ROI or a property in bad condition is much higher. Even if you have to decide quickly, spend what precious time you do have on research. Focus on local market trends and the cost of the property’s expenses to get a realistic vision of a fair price. Consider what financing options are best suited for the type of property you want, whether it is a single-family home or a commercial building for multiple business tenants. Take maintenance needs and necessary upgrades into account when figuring out the total cost of ownership. These strategies will help you make the right decision when buying property.